When you tutor high school English, essay writing is a key topic. Therefore, the thesis statement is often a focus during English tutoring.
Let’s imagine you write an essay about why camping is great. (I don’t happen to like camping, but you don’t have to believe in a topic to write a successful essay about it.) You begin with an introductory paragraph that contains a few reflections about camping. From most people’s point of view, the last sentence of the introductory paragraph should be the thesis statement.
Let’s imagine now you’ve finished the essay, your excitement about camping having propelled you through the body paragraphs and conclusion. You look back. Here’s what you see:
body paragraph 1:
One great benefit of camping is meeting new people at the campsite. Since often you’re camped in neighboring spaces…..
body paragraph 2:
Another great feature of camping is being out in the fresh air. Anyone from the city will quickly notice…..
body paragraph 3:
Yet another great dimension of camping is the family time uninterrupted by work, scheduled activities, or TV shows. Families often find camping brings them closer….
Now, you look at your introductory paragraph:
Commonly, people love camping. It is a staple of summer vacations. Taking afternoon walks along forest paths, roasting hot dogs, and looking up at the starry sky from around the fire are cherished memories of any camper. Not only must such memories be passed down, but in fact everyone should have them, even if they don’t grow up with a camping tradition. Usually, people who are skeptical about camping turn out to love it.
With that introductory paragraph, followed by the body paragraphs referred to earlier, the essay will be a “fail”. Why? Simple: it doesn’t have a thesis statement. An essay that lacks a thesis statement, or else fails to prove its thesis, will get a failing grade.
Since the essay lacks a thesis statement, let’s give it one. We’ll add a thesis statement at the end of the introduction, as follows:
introductory paragraph with thesis statement added:
Commonly, people love camping. It is a staple of summer vacations. Taking afternoon walks along forest paths, roasting hot dogs, and looking up at the starry sky from around the fire are cherished memories of any camper. Not only must such memories be passed down, but in fact everyone should have them, even if they don’t grow up with a camping tradition. Usually,people who are skeptical about camping turn out to love it. There are three great benefits of camping: meeting new people, being out in the fresh air, and spending time together as a family.
Now, having a thesis statement that mentions the topics in its three body paragraphs, the essay has jumped from a “fail” to a “B” (or thereabouts). Of course, it needs a conclusion, which will recap the intro and restate the thesis. Usually, the conclusion is shorter than the introduction. With a little polish, moving up from “B” to “A” is not too difficult.
The way to fail an essay is to lack a thesis statement or else fail to prove it. The way to write a B-range essay is to include, in the introductory paragraph, an obvious thesis statement that connects with the body paragraphs that follow. The way to go from “B” to “A” is with polish.
I’ll have much more to say about essay writing in upcoming posts. The weekend promises to be sunny and fine; some people are talking about going camping. Not me:)
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.